Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – The Jukebox Series #7 – Paul & Linda McCartney – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” b/w “Too Many People” – Apple Records 45 1837 1971 (M1/N1)
“The Jukebox Series” focuses on the 80 records that inhabit my 1963 Seeburg LPC1 jukebox. I’ve had my jukebox (or as I like to call it “the prehistoric iPod”) for a little over twelve years and in that time I’d like to think that I’ve perfected the mix of 45s within.
Lyrics were never his strong suit…and the lyrics from “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” are at best incoherent. However, you’d be hard pressed to argue with the musical prowess of Paul McCartney especially on today’s Song Of The Day.
Today’s single was culled from Paul McCartney’s second solo album Ram, the only album in his vast catalog credited to Paul & Linda McCartney. The album was recorded in New York City with backing musicians David Spinozza on guitar, Hugh McCracken (who replaced Spinozza for the second half of the sessions) on guitar and future Wings member Denny Seiwell on drums.
The construction of “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” picks up where the second side of The Beatles’ Abbey Road left off. Here we have McCartney dabbling in multi part suites of music, and the song is an amalgam of its many unfinished parts. McCartney wouldn’t perfect this way of song construction until “Band On The Run” two years later.
The song was inspired by Paul’s real Uncle Albert Kendall who married his Aunt Millie. Uncle Albert would habitually get drunk and then read passages from the Bible out loud. The admiral of the song was inspired by American Naval Admiral William “Bull” Halsey,” however Paul’s use of Admiral Halsey’s name was chosen because of the way it sounded and had nothing to do with who Halsey was or what he did.
The single was McCartney’s first chart topper away from The Beatles and it won the Grammy Award for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists in 1971. It was never released as a single in the UK, where they got “The Back Seat Of My Car” instead as the first single. The song’s flugelhorn part was played by Jazz be-bop trumpet player Marvin Stamm who never met McCartney in person, as his parts were recorded in London and overdubbed onto the master in New York. The New York Philharmonic Orchestra was also brought in for the arrangement.
The flip of the single is “Too Many People” which is also the opening track on Ram. After the acrimonious split of The Beatles, Lennon and McCartney cryptically addressed each other in lines from their songs. Several lines from “Too Many People” were seen as snipes at John Lennon, like the line “Too many people preaching practices.” Paul: “[John had] been doing a lot of preaching, and it got up my nose a little bit.” The line “You took your lucky break and broke it in too” was also seen as addressing McCartney’s former writing partner with the lucky break referring to being a member of The Beatles and his breaking it in two about their breakup.
Lennon retorted on his next album Imagine with the scathing “How Do You Sleep.” The album also included a postcard photo in early pressings depicting a smiling Lennon holding a pig’s ears in the same pose as McCartney holding the ram’s horns on the cover of Ram.
The sessions for Ram also produced McCartney’s first solo single “Another Day,” as well as early versions of “Big Barn Bed,” “Little Lamb Dragonfly” and “Get On The Right Thing” which turned up on McCartney’s 1973 album Red Rose Speedway. McCartney released an all-instrumental version of the Ram album in 1977 under the pseudonym of Percy “Thrills” Thrillington.
Ram was roundly panned by the critics when it was released in 1971; however it has grown in stature over the years. I’ve always loved the album and it is still one of my all-time favorite records after all these years. As far as “musical comfort food” goes, this one has been a staple in my diet since it came out – very tasty, always reliable with plenty of room for multiple helpings.